How To Make Time for Self-Care As A Mom
As I was browsing through my blog categories, I noticed that my self-care category looked a little bare. I’m not surprised. Life as a mom of 2 little ones zooms by. And it’s often difficult to make time for self-care as a busy mom of 2.
I pledged to myself that self-care would be a bigger priority for me through my pregnancy and the postpartum period. I can’t say that I completely abandoned my pledge, but with the addition of a second child self-care took on a less glamorous look. And it happens more often than we’d like to admit.
What did self-care mean before motherhood?
In our former child-free life, self-care meant an extensive amount of “me-time”. It often included going to the gym, getting dinner and/or drinks with friends, reading books/magazines, getting hair and nails done regularly, vacations with or without our significant others, binge watching shows, the list was endless.
And given that, when mothers hear the word “self-care” they very often scoff at it, and wonder how they can create extra hours in the day for all the “relaxing” self-care they need to include. But the truth is that “self-care” for mothers, especially mothers of young children, does not really look like self-care of their pre-children self. Their self-care looks a lot less glamorous. But it’s essential.
And while self-care for moms is often not about the indulgences of long spa treatments or brunches with friends, it becomes about something deeper. Because we’re so pressed for time, we actually choose activities that will bring the most benefit to us physically and emotionally. And that is a welcome shift.
What is self-care in motherhood?
So what does “self-care” for a mother really mean? I think it means something different for every mother because we all have different needs and priorities. (But if you need some ideas, 30 Nourishing Self-Care Ideas for Exhausted Moms will get you started).
For example, I don’t do well on limited or broken sleep. And by not doing well I mean, I get debilitating migraines and turn into an angry, spiteful, little gremlin that can’t take care of myself or my children. So having plenty of uninterrupted sleep or daily naps is essential for me to function. But someone else may feel the same way if they skip their daily workout or a phone chat with their friend. The point is, we are all different!!!
We change, priorities change
Our priorities change when we become mothers. I used to be obsessed with having my nails perfectly done before I had children. So much so, that I re-painted them at a sight of a chip forming. I thought my world would end if my nails weren’t perfect. But fast forward 3 years and 2 children later, I sport bare nails on daily basis. I get my nails done for rare special occasions and only if I actually have time.
Surprisingly, I have survived and have suffered only minimal psychological damage. I no longer have much time for non-essentials. And even though it took me a while to come to terms with this, I am fine with it now. It’s NORMAL to have our priorities shift once we become mothers. And it’s NORMAL to have different needs.
Aside from our priorities being different, our time is now limited. So tackling things in order of importance becomes paramount to optimal functioning. And while having a list of self-care items is important, what’s more important is rating that list to figure out what you need most. Once you identify which self-care items are the most necessary for you, you will no longer scoff at the idea of self-care in motherhood. You will have time for them because they will be important to you. They will be priorities.
So, take your trusty planner and pencil in daily, weekly, and monthly self-care activities. Make them of equal importance as your child’s soccer practice or doctor’s appointment. Your family needs a functioning mother to function well themselves. And you need time self-care activities to function. So, work together to ensure that you can allow for this very necessary time.
How to make time for self-care without adding to your load
You may wonder how you can engage in self-care without adding hours in a day. After all, you need to mindfully engage in self-care. And yes, some self-care requires mindful engagement, but some can be done while you’re doing other things. And some can be broken into small chunks of time to make it manageable.
For example, having a mindfulness practice seems daunting when you have little ones running around. But when you realize that a mindfulness practice simply means 5-10 minutes of meditation, you can make it a priority and pencil it in. But it is up to you to figure out when you can pencil it in. Is it first thing in the morning, right after you put your child down for a nap, or right before bed?
Same with getting physical exercise. Do you have time to take an hour class at the gym? Maybe, maybe not. But can you break this hour up throughout your day? My guess is, yes you can. You can do some squats and lunges while out with a stroller, you can incorporate your baby into a push-up and plank routine, or you can have a dance party with your toddler. And by the end of the day, you have your work out in, and you didn’t even have to struggle to fit it into your busy schedule. Or you can combine both mindfulness and exercise if you engage in a yoga practice. Boom! Best of all, there are many free or very cheap yoga classes online. My husband and I use www.downdogapp.com and paid a whopping $35 for the whole year.
Of course, a solo self-care activity requires someone’s help. Your partner should be able to take care of the house and children while you go and get your hair or nails done, have a spa treatment, or wrap yourself in blankets while reading a book in peace. After all, I’m sure when your partner wants to take some time for self-care, you take those responsibilities on without a second thought.
Date nights are also part of self-care and should happen regularly. But we all know that life comes at you fast (you are talking to someone who hasn’t left the house without a child for nearly 5 months) and you just do the best you can. And now with COVID, date night definitely looks different. But no one says that you can’t dress up at home, get some take out, put some romantic music on and have fun at home.
And one last but very important thing – in order to make time for self-care, take less important things off your to-do list. And that often includes things like obsessively doing dishes, laundry, or vacuuming and mopping your floors multiple times a day. You don’t need to waste your precious time of this. Make a cleaning schedule depending on how clean you want things to be (we do just fine with a twice a month deep clean and some smaller clean-ups in between) and stick to it. Don’t overdo it. You being able to relax with a glass of wine while watching a favorite show is more important than having a spotless kitchen.
No more scoffing at self-care suggestions
Promise me, that next time you read an article about self-care, you won’t scoff at it. I know that at a first glance it seems just like another to-do on your endless list but when you stop and think about it, you can make it a part of your life. Don’t feel pressured by it, but remember, if your self-care just means taking a nap to feel refreshed, DO IT!!!! Don’t feel guilty or sad that your needs are so simple and just take that nap. You’ll feel better after!
60 thoughts on “How To Make Time for Self-Care As A Mom”
Listen this is so important. Even if its a few minutes at night to put a mask on your face. I am working on daily things that I can do to put the care back into myself. I feel ok being selfish for an hour a day.
As you should. And I don’t think investing in yourself is selfish. Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe.
Self care is so important and it’s also so easy to forget or think we don’t need. Thank you so much for sharing this
Thank you for your comment, Ibukun.
This is every mom’s dream and also the one thing we don’t get around to making it happen. Lives are so busy, by the time it’s time for mom, we zonk out on the couch. But this post was so on time because this is a priority that I am trying to make in my life. It is so important and our families will benefit from it too. Thanks for the reminder!!
Thank you for your comment, Donna. Yes, it’s way too easy to answer the call of the couch. Lol. But it’s so much better to do something good for ourselves that is nourishing and not just zonking out.
self-care is so important and I am learning this everyday. We matter and just as important as everyone else around us.
Thank you for your comment, Kelly. Yes, we do matter!!!
these are such good suggestions — i always take some time to either go tanning or do my nails
Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. That is awesome that you make time for things that are important to you. Self-care looks different for everyone but is very important.
I used to scoff at my husband for making sure to fit self-care into his day. I was sometimes resentful to be honest. I believed I was too busy even though he would have supported me. Then I became absolutely miserable. So I started a couple of years ago by simply committing to getting outside for a walk every day. Wow, what a difference that made! I have now expanded on this and now also see myself as modeling self-care for my kids. They are also happier because of it and I hope they are able to take my self-care lesson into their own adult lives.
Thank you for sharing this, Sherry. That is such a great story. I think men usually find more time for self-care because they are taught from an early age that taking care of themselves comes first. It’s unfortunately the opposite for women. We are always told to attend to others needs before our own and that’s why when we become mothers we neglect ourselves and run ourselves into the ground. Great job being a role model in self-care for your children.
I have neglected this part to doing only the needful. It now seems as if getting back to it is more difficult than actually doing it 🙂
I know I should I hope I do
Thanks for your comment, Olufunke. Yes, I think a lot of us feel like we don’t have the time, so we push away all the self-care and basically forget it.
I like the idea of breaking up self care time into segments. I do this myself and I end up getting more done this way. Two self care musts for me is a daily shower and workout. I workout in the evening and take a shower before bed to unwind. It helps.
Thanks for sharing, Megan. I think that’s great. Showers are non-negotiables for me as well. No way am I going without one. My husband can take care of kids while I shower.
I’m terrible at self care. I’m trying to get better at it but with kids it’s a challenge!
Thanks for sharing, Shayla. Yes, it’s a struggle all moms face. I’m not particularly great at it either but have gotten better at saying “World be damned” and going and taking a nap, a bath or whatever I need at that moment.
It’s so hard to take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. These are great tips.
Thanks for your comment, Cyndi.
It’s true — self-care can be both difficult to make happen AND essential. You’re right — you can’t pour from an empty cup, and that’s never more true than in motherhood.
Thanks for your comment, Charissa.
I don’t know why we feel so guilty making and taking time for ourselves! It’s such a struggle, but I know when I actually do carve out a few minutes here or there, I’m definitely happier. That makes me a better, more patient mom for sure. My husband has gotten really good a pushing me to take a timeout here and there. I guess he notices the change in my mood for the better too ;)!
Thank you for sharing, Darrah. It’s so true that we are better when we take the time for ourselves. As to feeling guilty, it seems to be a cultural thing. Culturally we are told that as mothers we are supposed to care for everyone and not ask for help. And we are told this from an early age, so our brain becomes programmed to feeling guilty is we’re doing anything other than making everyone around us happy.
My mama used to sometimes think I was selfish for taking “me time.” But she’s temporarily living with us now while recovering from surgery (and watching the craziness of parenting with my husband’s long work hours, plus raising our LD kiddo, firsthand) and she sees exactly WHY I insist on putting my own needs first at least some of the time!
Thanks for your comment, Flossie. I think you bring up a good point. Culturally, it so ingrained in us that taking time for ourselves as mothers, is selfish. And our mothers drive that point home. They seem to forget what it was like in the beginning. I’m glad that your mom is seeing your needs and that you are putting your needs first.
I’m so happy to hear you have only had minimal psychological damage with not getting your nails done. LOL! I’m the same way. I used to care so much about how I looked but now I just feel like there are way too many other things to care about. Self-care is VITAL to be our best version. We can’t give from an empty cup!
Thanks for your comment, Adriane. Yes, luckily minimal damage. Lol. And no we cannot give from an empty cup and we need to remember that.
This one spoke to me … What a wonderful boost. So true that we tend to let go of ourselves and have to be mindful of self care.
Thank you for your comment, Aditi.
I really need to start fitting self care in to my daily/weekly mama life. I am horrible at it! I know that it will help be be a better mama and a wife if I can time to care for myself. I just have to DO it! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your comment, Ashley.
I cannot stress enough how important Self-Care is to mothers. We go through alot.
Thanks for your comment, Sonia. Yes, we do and we deserve to take a break.
This is such an important thing. It can be tough to fit in self-care, but it really makes a difference.
Thanks for the comment, Marysa.
Self care is so important, but it’s harder for me to drop the guilt of leaving my little love behind!
Thanks for sharing, Ashley. Yes, the guilt is strong with us moms. And that’s also part of self-care, learning to drop the guilt. While we are incredibly important for our children’s well being, there are other family members they can engage in, especially dad.
I had my first child at 19 so never had an adult life without having children. Now I’m in my late 30s & have a small child with special needs. Self care is always an afterthought for me as someone always needs me but I do need to change this & give myself some time
Thank you for sharing, Toni. Yes, it’s very hard when you have children around that always need you. But moms need breaks in order to function and be at their best.
Thank you for sharing this. It is a great reminder for us moms to never neglect ourselves despite the changes brought about by motherhood.
Totally agree that we may have different needs but just like you — taking a nap to feel refreshed is just good enough for me right now.
Thank you for sharing, Clarice. Yes, naps are the best.
I have an awful time fitting in me time and not feeling guilty about it. I work and coming home I feel like i should spend time with my baby since I was gone 12 hours. It’s hard to find that time for yourself when it seems like you have no time concept.
Thank you for sharing, Aubri. It’s so true that it’s such a difficult balance. I feel guilty and I stay at home. I know it’s even harder when you are away for so many hours and want to spend time with your child.
Learning to listen to myself has been such an amazing process. Self care was never something I thought about until I had kids. Now, it is so important to me and I make so much more time for myself than I ever thought possible.
Thank you for sharing, Jody. I agree. I don’t think I truly thought about self-care before having kids. And now, I do. And I think I’m so much better for it.
This is a great article! I too struggle with implementing a self-care routine into my day. Some days I barely have enough time to even rinse my body in the shower! It’s horrible, honestly. And it does truly take a toll on how we women feel about our selves. I’m (slowly) realizing how critical it is to do a few things for myself each day. Whether that’s taking a bath after the kids go to sleep (instead of falling into the trap of just sinking into the couch) or putting on a face mask to detox my skin. Hey, you can still do mom duties with that on! Haha. But with a nursing newborn and a toddler, it is hard to escape for too long without either feeling guilty or neglecting someone’s needs. This is a great article that says it’s okay to put me first sometimes! In fact, I think that’s what actually makes us all better moms. Thanks for posting!
Thank you for sharing your experience, Lauren. I totally feel you. Not too long ago, I also had a nursling and a very demanding toddler. And yes, it was very hard to find time. But on days that I didn’t find time, I was horrible and angry. So I learned to hand both off to my husband and make sure they have bonding time. So in reality, no one’s needs are getting ignored. It’s just important to remember that we (moms) don’t have to meet our children’s every need.
I definitely agree that my vision of self care shifted so much after having kids! I spent too many years in the mommy martyr mode, and I do look back and realize that attitude served no one. Learning self care as a mom has been a game changer!
Thank you for sharing, Jen. It’s so good to hear that you have implemented self-care in your life. It’s so important.
I run and most of the time it’s just for me and oh so important even when I’m not really feeling like it today. Thanks for the reminder.
Thank you for sharing, Catherine. That sounds like great self-care.
I really like your suggestions about breaking up our self-care into smaller chunks. Moms have to get creative!
Thanks for your comment, Karen. Yes, we absolutely do. We need to do what we can to keep sane and not as overwhelmed.
Great post! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for the comment, Beth.
I’m definitely also learning how to fit some self care into my daily routine. I need to practice mindfulness more.
Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. Yes, mindfulness is something to work on. But as I said in the article, it can be as simple as 5 minutes a day. And then yo won’t notice how it grows and expands and infiltrates all parts of your life. It’s amazing.
I always struggle to work in some time for myself. Even something as simple as a shower gets put on the back burner with two kids to take care of. I’m always working to do more for myself.
Thank you for sharing, Laura. I think that’s how so many moms function. But in reality, it’s not like our kids can’t wait for 20 minutes while we shower. When my oldest one was between 1 and 2, I used to put him in the bathtub next to my shower with some toys and he happily played in there. And when my youngest was a baby, I would put him in a bouncer next to the shower and have him chill while I took a shower. But it’s definitely a mindset that we women get groomed for from day 1.